Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (Joseph Losey, 1975, UK)


Elizabeth is a reflection in a cold sterile jar of winter, haunted by an electrical ghost that howls in the bones of her face, a linear beauty reduced to an apparition of impulses and consequences. Director Joseph Losey dissects a failed marriage by introducing a strange element into a static environment and encrypts the dramaturgy with enigma and suspense.

Elizabeth flees her family for a temporary journey of desperation and self discovery, meeting a handsome young man with no attachments or engagements. Thomas represents the dangerous liaisons of poetic fury, tempting her from the sleep of marriage. She finally returns to her husband Lewis whose prose is more substantial than his wife's feelings and he begins a ménage e trios that piques his moribund curiosity, thus fulfilling his self destructive prophecy. Thomas meanwhile is a loose end, a man without a past, and moves in mysterious ways and towards destinations unknown.

Losey's self-deprecating drama is full of bleak and unsentimental humor, as Lewis' director friend speaks of his next film, mirroring the plot we are currently involved in, while Lewis admits it's a boring premise. A novelist and screenwriter, Lewis says the story needs thrills and excitement, not Art House histrionics. Losey obliges by spicing THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN with gangsters and thugs, and an oblique romance that may or may not have happened. Losey's camera tracks methodically through their lives, often utilizing a slow zoom for dramatic license, or shooting reflections as characters inhabit a mirrored universe of anti-matters. Lewis' fantasies about Elizabeth's possible affair becomes antithetical to cause and effect, making reality into his own fractured imagination.

The denouement is a conflation of genre conventions, as empty as a tattered suitcase, as void as a shattered marriage.

Final Grade: (B)

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